Here is the next instalment of our new series: In Conversation With…introducing Christella Matoko, project support officer working on our trainee nursing associate programme.
Lives: In Hemel Hempstead
And: Christella speaks three languages – English is her third language!
What’s your role at our Trust and how long have you been with us?
I joined 18 months ago as a project support officer. I started with our workforce team helping to implement our trainee nursing associate programme. Now I’m based with our Education team working to make the programme part of our business as usual now it’s no longer a pilot.
Nursing associate is a new role being introduced which will work alongside our registered nurses, providing hands-on care to patients. We have one of the largest groups of trainees in the country.
My job involves finding placements for the trainees, organising forums, study days, and learning events. I also support them more generally and have got to know them really well over the last 18 months, they’re often on the phone and now I know them, I can usually help resolve any issues they’re having.
Tell us a bit more about your career and how you ended up in project support
It was not my plan! When I was growing up I loved performing, I was always making my family watch my performances, and pay! I loved acting and dancing and I did a performing arts and arts management degree at the University of Winchester.
It was during my degree that I got funding from East Thames for a physical theatre performance – it was going to be a one-woman show in three languages, as English isn’t my first language, showing my journey from being born in the Democratic Republic (DR) of the Congo in Africa, to living in Belgium, then coming to England when I was three.
But I got injured rehearsing and knew I couldn’t continue with the show. As I didn’t want to give the money back, instead I used it to organise a showcase for young talent in Stratford. It was for disadvantaged young people who were unlikely to be able to go to a drama or performing arts school. It went really well and they were really grateful.
It was from planning that event that I realised I really loved project management. So I studied for a project management qualification, PRINCE2. It was a five-day intense course with exams at the end. I still love performing too though!
What’s the best thing about your role at our Trust?
I love working with the trainees and I’m really excited that our first group is due to graduate at the end of this month and register as nursing associates.
Working on the project is also easier now I know what to look out for. I’ve learned so much in this role and I’m really glad I’ve been able to see the pilot through.
Tell us more about growing up, moving countries and learning three languages
Lingala is my first language from my birth country, DR Congo. French is my second language, which is also spoken there. We moved to Belgium when I was very young and lived there for a year, then came to England. (English is my third language!)
There was a civil war in the DR Congo, but the main reason my parents moved is because they wanted a better life and more opportunities for us. I don’t have many memories of home, my brother Mega, who is four years older, remembers more, though I think some of his stories are tall tales – he tells me he was my hero and rescued me from a snake once!
My younger sisters, Cecilia, 26, Hannah, 23 and Gabriella, six, were all born in the UK.
My African heritage is really important to me, we have traditional weddings and eat lots of traditional food. Kwanga ntaba, barbeque meat with dough, is one of my favourites.
What about the challenges you’ve faced?
I’m dyslexic and was diagnosed at 21. I didn’t grow up in a great area, schools were crowded so teachers didn’t really take the time to find out I had it. I thought that I was stupid and slow for a long time and used to spend twice as long as my peers learning my lines for performances.
Despite that, I still got a 2:1 in my degree and I’m really proud of that.
It’s a disadvantage, as is being from the BAME community, and being a woman. While issues do exist, if I focused on that, it would stop me from working hard to achieve my dreams, so I try to move forward. I have a really strong family unit, and that support is really important. I’ve often gone home and wanted to give up and my mum has talked me round.
What are your hobbies and interests outside work?
I love going to the theatre and regularly go to the West End. I also like to support local fringe theatres. I think that’s important as they help educate local schoolchildren.
And I like to travel – I love anywhere hot and sunny with a beach. Despite living in the UK most of my life I still struggle with the cold weather and if I don’t end up moving home to the DR Congo one day, I will move somewhere warmer!
I also spend a lot of time with my family, we’re really close and there’s lots of banter!
And our favourite question of In Conversation With… do you have any pets?
No – I’m scared of cats and dogs and I once held a friend’s hamster at university and it made my legs go all funny. So nothing furry for me. I could probably deal with a goldfish.